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The Growth Of Awareness Of Adult Illiteracy In Britain

afternoons free.  This is necessary because apart from personal home tuition, classes for shift-workers are held during the day.  Cambridge House now operates a number of tuition schemes specifically designed for groups with different needs.  For example an Monday evening is a group in the transitional stage - that is, now functionally literate but with spelling difficulties which need help before the student is ready to move on to Evening Institute studies held by the I.L.E.A. for below-average readers.  Wednesday morning class is held for mothers with babies.  A crèche is provided for the children so that the women can study more easily, and on Tuesday evening is the men’s group so that man who might feel embarrassment at declaring their illiteracy before women can feel more at ease.  In all of these groups the numbers are limited to a maximum of twelve students so that individual attention is available.

Financially, Cambridge House Literacy Scheme is quite comfortable.  The I.L.E.A. grant has now increased to £28,000 per annum and five full-time workers are employed on producing resources and administration of the groups as well as interviewing students and volunteer tutors and giving training and support to the volunteers.

Following the development, of pressure groups such as Cambridge House, the British Association of Settlements and other literacy groups then operating, the Department of Education and Science established the Adult Literacy Resource Agency.  A.L.R.A. became operational on 1st April 1975 with a grant of £1 million for 1975/76.  The brief was to help local education authorities and voluntary organisations tackle the problem of adult illiteracy.11

In October 1975 the British Broadcasting Corporation started its Adult Literacy programmes on both radio and television - "On The Move”.  These programmes were produced in close collaboration with A.L.R.A. and the National Committee for Adult Literacy.  The interest shown in this led to a great increase in both volunteers and would-be literates.  By October 1977, A.L.R.A. was able to show a ten-fold increase in students under instruction from the 5,000 estimated by Michael Haviland in 1973 to 55,000 in March 1976.12  By the time of the A,L.R.A. Annual Report published in July 1977, the figures had risen to over 65,000 students and 44,500 volunteers.13  The Agency was funded for three years’ operation only.  The brief was to assist in special projects, encourage local authorities to initiate literacy courses specifically for adults, (excluding non-English speakers for whom other arrangements were available) and support research into adult illiteracy (see Appendix 4 for the A.L.R.A. brief).

The work of A.L.R.A.  is due to come to an end in March 1978 and for some time there was concern among literacy workers as to the future.  However, financing for voluntary organisations has, in many cases been taken over by the local education authority and other financial sources.  In addition the Department of Education has recently announced provision of £200,000 per year from April 1978, to continue funding research and new projects into adult illiteracy.

11 Department of Education and Science Report: Adult Literacy: Progress in 1975/76, March 1976.

12 ALRA: Newsletter, October 1977.

13 ALRA: Annual Report 1976/77, July 1977.

© Amity Reading Clubs and Betty Cooper 1978 to 2002 Page 9 of 51

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